The shelter consists of fifty small rooms where homeless persons with an illegal substance abuse can live
Costs and Benefits of Adapting to Homeless Life
Costs and benefits of adapting tohomeless life.Maja Flåto & Katja JohannessenNorwegian institute for Urban andRegional ResearchHomelessness and Poverty, 18’thSeptember 2009.
Adapting to the changedcircumstances• The informants in this study can be characterized as both “houseless” and “roofless” according to ETHOS’ definition.• They are in the poorest part of the population, and moves between the streets and public and private shelters.• A contention in this paper is that as homeless persons spend more and more time in the streets and shelters, their previous bonds with main society becomes looser.
• The paper focus on three themes which illustrates some of the changes that occur in homeless persons lives regarding their perception of1. Social life2. Economy3. Time
Socio material structures 1• Socio material structures are important because they constitutes the space in which homeless people live.• Our informants moves between different living arrangements.Street lifeLife in a shelter
Socio material structures 2Street life• Regulation of public space both deliberately and unintentionally affects homeless people.• Increased surveillance and control limits the space in which homeless people can live.• A struggle to find good places to sleep.• Homeless persons move around the city to avoid police and security guards.
Socio material structures 3Shelter life• Homeless persons can live in the shelter from a few days to several years.• The residents signs a contract when moving in to the shelter, but can be evicted on one days notice.• All of the residents have their own room with a key.• Once a week the personnel does room checks to see if the rooms looks okay.
Social networks 1• Several social relations within the homeless environment.• Few social relations outside the homeless environment, with exception of people working in the homeless service provision.• Short and intensive friendships
Social networks 2• Informants speaks of “us” and “them”.• Social networks and economy was closely related. It was expected that goods were shared between friends.• Is there a difference between friendship and partnership?• What characterized all relations was lack of confidence and continuous break ups.• However, the informants relied on their social networks to manage daily life.
Different economic strategies• Few homeless persons manage to keep a day job. Daily life in the streets or in a shelter is not compatible with a regular job.• Adapting to homeless life can involve adaptation of new economic strategies within the informal economy.• The economic strategies fit the nomadic lifestyle many homeless persons live.
Harvest economy 1• Harvest economy is a concept used to describe the economic strategies of homeless persons.• Harvest economy is an informal economy and is characterized by the short distance between production and consumption. It is not common to cultivate the resources, but use them as they exist.• Within the harvest economy the participants moves according to where the resources can be found.
Harvest economy 2• When harvesting, hunting and gathering you need only one thing and that is mobility.• The informants move from place to place and shelter to shelter, and every time they move they have to bring all of their belongings with them. Thus when using the term harvest economy to analyze the life of longtime homeless people we see that most of their economic strategies evolve around their nomadic lifestyle.• This nomadic lifestyle also seemed to have an impact on their social lives.
Harvest economy 3• What maybe seems irrational in the formal economy can be the most rational things to do in the informal economy. Spending money at once Helping friends and aquaintances – but also letting them down when necessary. Loan money
Time perception• Harvest economy does not only affect how economic strategies are made, it also affects other parts of life such as the perception of time and space.Changing towards a cyclic perception of time.Fail to make long term plansPerspective of the future fades
Concluding remarks• By adapting to homeless life our informants manage to get by on the streets and in shelters.• The harvest economy and a cyclic perception of time is a functional adaptation to the homeless way of life.• The paradox of this adaptation is that on the one hand it makes life on the streets more manageable, but on the other hand it contributes to a continuation of life in a homeless situation.